My father took me to my first 76ers game during the team’s initial season in Philadelphia, after it moved here from Syracuse.
As soon as I walked through the turnstile at the old Philadelphia Arena, I was startled by the crowd noise. A quick walk up some steps and I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. The bright lamps that hung from the ceiling. The thumping of the ball against the gorgeous hardwood. The satin uniforms. The squeaking of sneaks. The players talking. And the canopy of cigar and cigarette smoke that hung over it all.
It was February 29, 1964, I was eight years old; and that was the night the Philadelphia 76ers became my first love.
Religiously, I would comb the Philadelphia Bulletin the afternoon following a game for the box score. I would listen attentively to games on radio, captivated by the vivid word pictures provided by Andy Musser and Al Meltzer. And every once in a while, there’d be a game on a UHF TV station, the players barely discernible, small black and white broadcast images cloaked in a translucent curtain of static and snow.
A few years later, I would be transfixed by rock disc jockeys on AM radio as they “talked up a record” during the song’s intro, only to stop their patter just as the lyrics came in. I took to imitating this myself, and soon realized that I too liked announcing. Combining this with my love of the team, I would take to turning the sound down during 76ers games on the TV and “broadcasting” into my new cassette tape recorder.
As I performed, I dreamt that I, one day, would be the voice of the Philadelphia 76ers …
Now, after 39 years of covering 76ers basketball, first as the halftime host and the last 27 years as the television voice, it’s time for me to step away.
I still love what I do. In fact, I can easily see myself doing this until I simply can’t do it anymore. But there are several issues at play here.
Foremost is my wife of nearly 38 years, Debbie. I can never repay her for all of the nights and weekends she spent alone, raising our sons and holding down her own, high-pressure career. Simply, she is my best friend, and we want to spend more time together.
If life is a basketball game, I’m into the fourth quarter! I’d like to play a musical instrument, learn to speak a foreign language, cook, travel, and by all means give back with my time and strength to the charitable causes that I hope will make for a better world.
There’s a lot out there for me to still do, and I want to do it all while I’m still able.
Gratitude is one of the qualities I’ve always worked mindfully to embrace. I’m not the voice of an NBA team without the help of hundreds along the way. As I ease into this next phase of my life, I will earnestly reach back to those individuals to express my gratitude.
But for now, allow me to thank you, 76ers fans, for the opportunity to be with you on this surreal ride. It’s been a privilege to be welcomed into your homes. I’ve come to fully understand and appreciate the responsibility of being the voice of your team and I was truly honored to do so.
You will continue to see me on social media, on the beach, the golf course, at a game or just on the street around town. If we do happen to cross paths, please call out so we can talk 76ers basketball, relive the moments and carry on the memories. Meantime, I will pass the baton on to the next television voice of the Philadelphia 76ers, doing so with peace of mind and a heart that couldn’t be more full.